Eternal Damnation

Karens, cockroaches, and blood parasites will survive the apocalypse. I know this because Fallout told me which bugs will mutate into low-XP enemies. And Hollywood showed me how I’ll die horribly. And Karens will always tell me what I’ve done wrong, and will always exist in some form. If there were a just and loving God, then the bugs would kill the Karens. But there obviously isn’t if the apocalypse were allowed to occur. That would be a vengeful and punishing God. The Old Testament told me that.

Fortunately I live in pre-apocalypse times, so the bugs are smaller. The Karens are more numerous, but I’ll take the tradeoff. Here’s my latest attempts at blood parasite mitigation:

Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis. I stumbled upon this recently. The concept is as follows: put a bucket of water somewhere, fill it with debris so it mimics the kind of stagnant pools that mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in, and inoculate it with a mosquito dunk, which is a block of dormant bacteria (species mentioned above) that infects and kills insects. The idea is to gradually decimate the local mosquito lineage as they reproduce, with the caveat that the trap should be the only pool of standing water available. Persistence is the key here.

For more immediate needs, I use a fogger. But the compounds it uses are sold very diluted and are more repellent than lethal, obviously targeted to the casual consumer. Instead, I purchased something that’s more of a commercial variant: a standard Pyrethrins/Piperonyl Butoxide mix, as is growing in popularity. As a bonus, it’s considered “safe” for agricultural purposes. The latter chemical disqualifies it from being organic certified, but it’s better in theory than much of the long-living spectracides. And I enjoy seeing cucumber beetles flee in terror. Finger of God indeed.

And lastly, in an attempt to capture adult mosquitos actively searching for blood, there’s the lactic acid-baited UV trap. The bait simulates the smell and CO2 emissions of a human, and upon getting too close the mosquito is pulled into the trap via a fan and held in a basket where it’s exposed to UV light, killing it. This captures a lot of moths as collateral damage, probably more drawn to the UV, but we don’t like those either.

I have it on a smart timer that comes on one hour before sunset, with the goal of starting capture during optimal hunting time, with a dawn shutoff.

Results so far have been encouraging, though gross.

Ewww

The verdict so far? Fewer mosquitoes, but they’re not gone entirely. I think I’d need to get my surrounding neighbors onboard, but I know that’s not going to happen. Regardless, I’ll settle for the net reduction, and hope the remnants are primarily biting the neighbors instead.

–Simon

Canine Yuckies

A dogger does love a stinky treat. So for a minor project I fried up the salmon skin from the Lox.

They are smelly to the point of nauseating, and apparently so delectable to a furry carnivore that their odor induced uncontrollable salivation onto the kitchen floor. Fantastic. The price of being a dog dad.

–Simon

The Deep Chill

I would hazard to say that safe food storage temperatures are general knowledge. If you don’t know what they are, then I’d encourage you to pay more attention to food safety, unless you enjoy full digestive purges:

  • <0 F for frozen food
  • >32 to <40 for refrigerator food

But these temperatures are for static storage. 0 F isn’t cold enough for the act of freezing, because it’s too slow and allows big ice crystals to develop in the food during the process. Sure it’ll still be safe to eat, but the quality will suffer. This dilemma has long bothered me as a gardener, hunter, and possessor of meat-cutting skills. How do I freeze that which was never frozen without adversely affecting its cellular integrity?

Vitrification would work, but I’m apparently the first person to ever search the internet for “how to vitrify beef”. So I’m guessing it’s not practical, or perhaps it’s very expensive.

That option ruled out, I’m left with one choice: cool things as quick as possible. I surmise 3 methods:

  1. Flash freezing
  2. Blast freezing
  3. Just freeze things in as low a temperature as possible

I’m not going to source liquid nitrogen, so option 1 is out. Nor will I go buy dry ice every time I want to freeze things. Blast freezers are more assembly line industrial systems, so obviously I’m not going that route either. Which leaves option 3.

Sushi restaurants accomplish option 3 with medical-grade freezers, which get as cold as -123. They also cost thousands, which I didn’t want to spend. But in my searching, I found a growing market for ultra low-temp consumer grade freezers. Apparently enough people wanted these that they’re available for reasonable prices. And so, I got this little number:

Cute, isn’t it? I like the frostbite warning placard.

3.5 cubic feet, with a low temperature setting of -40. Not bad. And after adding some cold packs to stabilize it, and using an expensive thermometer that could actually read temps that low without malfunctioning, it goes even lower.

That’s pretty darn cold.

So far I’ve only used it a couple times, and I haven’t eaten what I froze in it yet, so the verdict is still out. I’m hopeful though. Here’s to some non-mushy frozen food!

–Simon

Punch and Clamp

I need to track more projects here and philosophize less! And as promised, here’s a project.

My tweeny daughter has aggression issues. And when I was her age I dealt with it by punching brick walls and cutting myself. Fortunately she asked for help in the form of a healthier outlet – a punching bag. I wish I had been able to talk to my own parents about mental problems.

So that’s what I got her. And I went official, UFC brand! Aww yeah. And no sissy 70# bag. No, this is the full 100! Which does limit hanging options, but I figured the I-beam in the basement that holds up the house should be strong enough.

And it also gave me a chance to use my bolt cutter – a tool I had purchased after a prior project involving chain segments. Previously, when I needed chain, I went to the hardware store and had an associate cut me off what I needed, which was an oddly awkward process to watch as they worked that pneumatic crank – equipment somewhat overkill for the rated chain I had selected. Now I can just have them cut one length, or better yet – buy a box pre-measured, and I cut to length on site. No lengthy store interactions, and no guesswork.

It’s also pretty manly to clamp through chain. Something about the raw power and strength of linked metal.

And so, some clamping and carabiners later, we had two sections of 250#-rated chain holding up a sand-filled stress-reliever.

By chance, the chain I selected was identical to what came with the bag.
That’s the appropriate look of anticipation.

It does shake the house a little bit, but I don’t think we’re in any danger of structural failure. A small price.

–Simon

Don’t Be a Goddamn Coward! – Pretzel Edition

I purchased food-grade poison. Technically, alcohol is just this. And also a toxin. Semantics are fun.

But in this case I refer to lye. Sodium hydroxide. I buy this every few years for clearing drains, heavy-duty cleaning, and disposing of bodies (there’s only so much room in my crawlspace).

Chemically speaking, lye denatures collagen, among other things. It also creates a highly exothermic reaction, especially when mixed with boiling water. It’s remarkably effective at liquefying human…stuff. It’s also the active ingredient in commercial drain cleaners. And purchased in its raw form, is cheap. An 8 pound bulk order would set me back about $30, though I had to find a distributor through some shady websites. This last time though, the prices were beyond silly. I know – “supply chains”, “labor shortages”, and “no one wants to work anymore”. But after some more digging, I found a new supplier for a reasonable price: Walmart Online. Go figure.

And it was only after it arrived that I discovered it was food-grade. This is in contrast to the usual technical-grade product I would normally get. The difference being, the latter has impurities that make it unfit for human consumption, which in the past translated to cheaper. But with this not the case anymore, I ended up with food-grade. Again, amusing in that it’s a poison.

But it’s not a poison in the sense that it disrupts metabolic functions. It’s a poison in that in sufficient concentrations it dissolves organic tissue. But properly diluted, its corrosive properties are minimized, and ideally suited to make flour dough brown and soft.

Which is why it’s traditionally been a key ingredient in pretzels. So no time like the present to experiment! After a couple attempts and reviewing numerous recipes, this is the combination I have determined ideal:

Recipe


Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.


Slurry

  • 1.2 cups water, heated to ~115 degrees F.
  • 2 oz melted butter (Note: use quality butter here. I noticed certain budget brands (ahem, Costco) have diluted theirs. This resulted in my first attempted pretzels cracking from the increased internal steam pressure from the added water content. Unfortunately our American food labeling rules allow for some lying wiggle room estimation, so even the calorie count isn’t fool-proof. Pay extra and buy name brand. Go European – 82% butterfat content to be safe.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar.
  • 2.5 teaspoons yeast (I use active dry as my go-to, and this worked fine).

Let yeast proof in the slurry while prepping the dry ingredients.


Dry

  • 2 teaspoons salt.
  • 22 oz (by weight) all purpose flour (most recipes specify this over bread flour, I think to avoid chewy pretzels).

Combine all ingredients and knead for ~10 minutes. Use your best judgment here. If you can’t figure this part out, then learn some more basic bread-making first.


The Poison

  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons lye

Proof

  • Proof the dough in a covered bowl for at least an hour. Again, this is a judgment call. See prior comment about gaining bread-making experience first.

Separate dough into 6 portions. I like this size. It’s like those big fluffy fair pretzels, except they’ll be softer because we’re using actual lye and not sissy boiled baking soda.

Shape dough. I went with the traditional string cross shape thing.

Dip dough for 10-15 seconds in lye solution. I used nitrile gloves for the added control. Also using gloves allows for some tactile sensory input. The dough will get noticeably gooey real quick. Place on parchment and repeat for each pretzel.

Sprinkle with salt. The salt will stick nicely to the treated dough. I prefer sea salt, but kosher will work. Personal preference here.

Bake for 14 minutes. This is oddly specific but does appear to hit the perfect spot.


My first attempt. See those cracks? Fuck you, Costco.

And there you have it. It’s somewhat laborious, but they beat out any pretzel I’ve ever purchased. I’m sure street vendors don’t use lye, and no form of chemical stabilizer magic can beat that fresh-from-the-oven texture. So don’t be a goddamn coward, and use some lye!

–Simon